Friday, August 17, 2012

No Man - Fiction


He turned, yet again, to face the heated wind. As with each break he had allowed himself, this reprieve had seemed far too short. Every step came with the question of whether or not it could be followed by another. He was conscious of each swallow of saliva, rationing them out now to make himself believe that there was still some moisture left in him.

How long could he continue this way? How many times had he asked this question to the swirling winds, the merciless sun, the ghost tendrils of sand swirling by without a second glance? He could not remember.

The road that had led him to this lonely place was not often traveled. He liked it that way. People generally annoyed him. But on this day, he'd even settle for any one of the vagabonds or thieves that he tended to shun when they happened along in his direction. After all, what could the poor rogues take from him that he hadn't lost already?

The downside, of course, would be the shame of having been forced to accept their kindness. One who requested the old hospitalities and protection from the likes of these "rovers" had given up any claim to dignity back in the world that most considered "civilized." What did those civilized folk know of reality anyway? What did they know of truth? Still, the fact of their ignorance didn't count for much when one was being heckled and jeered by the well-to-do mobs back in the city.

"Ah the knots we tie ourselves into," he thought, chuckling subconsciously at himself. He had gained a certain mystique in those towns, a reputation that he had somehow actually come to value. "How did you let that happen, you old fool?" If his younger self could see him now, the boy would surely chastise the man. Through his very acts of defiance, strange appearance, and a refusal to adhere to the norms of the larger settlements, he had gained a bit of a following.

Now, he admitted to himself, he had come to enjoy it. Even though his admirers had no idea what he believed or how he lived, he craved their wondering looks, and their whispers. He enjoyed the recognition on the dirty streets, fear on the faces of the young, respect of a sort on the faces of their elders. Finding his way into some random hole and receiving a drink paid for by a stranger wasn't the worst thing in the world either. How things had changed.

What had he become? A lightweight? A caricatured version of his true and former self, pandering to the baser crowd? No, not quite that. Not really. He hadn't asked for the rumors, the mythos that had grown up around his mysterious ways. He had not intended to become an underground celebrity. Still, his younger self would have sneered at any who dared to look him in the eye. That man would have turned his shoulder and turned over tables in response to some unknown low-life's kindness.

What did they know of life, beyond the blinders on their eyes, the coin in their pockets, and a frothy brew in their grubby fists. Nothing. Not a damn thing. They were ignorant. They had no conception of the world outside their little metropolitan hovel, and they didn't care to know. He had been different once, but it was becoming sadly apparent to him now, as he shuffled along in this desert swelter, that even he was not immune to corruption.